Patiently Wait for an All-In Moment
Having won four out of my first five heats in the Premier League of Poker (for a total of 32 points), I was guaranteed the chip lead in the finals.
Loyal readers know that several weeks ago several world-class poker players like myself were invited to London to compete in the Premiership of Poker. We each competed in six “heats” for points, with the top four scorers (plus two top scorers from consolation heats) would compete in a six-player finale. In the finale, each player would take their point total times 10,000 to determine the size of their chip stack (for example, 28 points equals $280,000).
Knowing that there were players in my sixth heat that desperately needed points: how should I play it? Should I play super aggressively, pushing around the players that needed points — and thus couldn’t make a stand — early on? No, I had tried that tactic in my fourth heat, after I won the first three heats, and I found that you couldn’t push around these players. They were playing their hands, not their point’s position. Too bad, I would have loved to run over the table with super aggressive play! Option two was to play super-tight poker, and wait out the others, because I felt that their weakness was a lack of patience. I was going to play super-patiently; I was going to the tactic that brought me four wins. Why change now?
This heat featured the German Eddy Sharf, American Kenna “The cowboy” James (how could a guy from Chicago be the cowboy?), Australian Tony G., Liz Liu, Englishman Ian Schafer and I.
After some relatively boring play, I found myself in the final three players with chip leader James ($375,000) and Sharf ($150,000). So far, things were going to plan. The blinds were $5,000-$10,000; I was in the big blind sitting on about $75,000 or so when James opened for $30,000 with A-4. I looked down at Kd-Jd, and pondered my options for about 30 seconds or so.
Finally, I moved all-in, and James studied for almost one minute before calling the $45,000 reraise. James’s A-4 was about an 11-to-10 favorite to win the pot over my Kd-Jd. Luckily for me, the cards came down K-Q-5-J-7, and I won the pot. Two hands later I opened for $25,000 on the button with Q-Q, and James moved me all-in for my full $150,000 with his 5-5. I did my patented “insta-call,” standing up while I moved my chips into the middle so fast that they fell over. My Q-Q was a 4-1/2-to-1 favorite to win the pot — a pot that contained exactly 50 percent of the chips in play.
Was I this good? Was I going to win my fifth heat out of six? Alas, no; the cards came down A-5-2-4-7, and I was eliminated in third place.
Let’s take a quick look at the actions during these hands. First, James’s raise on the button with A-4 was standard. My move with Kd-Jd was OK, or some pros might have tried the “stop-and-go” move (where one calls before the flop and then moves all-in on the flop, no matter what cards hit the flop). The Stop-and-go is a good option for me here as well. My reasoning was that I could beat all bluffing hands, I was even money versus any pocket pair 10s or under, and I was roughly even money against most ace highs. In case I had James beat, I wanted to charge him the full amount. In the second hand, my raise on the button was standard (although technically standard would have been $30,000 – $35,000). James’s reraise all-in was a bit weak, but fits well within an aggressive strategy. I say why risk most of his chips with 5-5 against someone who was playing as tight as I was? Also, what if Sharf picked up a strong hand? I would prefer to see James call here, not move all-in.
In any case, third place gave me a final total of 35 points; good enough for first place (by a mile) in the Premiership. Next week, in Part VII, we will finally talk about the finals, where I started with the chip lead ($350,000).
Q-Q is favored over 5-5 before the flop by this much:
D) even money